One month after Rob Bell’s controversial book Love Wins came out, Mike Wittmer had already published a book-length response:
The money chapter is chapter 7, which recently became available online as a free PDF. Wittmer delves past the symptoms (hell and universalism) and explains the fundamental problem with Love Wins.
[W]hen the need is great, love isn’t love unless it actually does something . . . Jesus’ death on the cross is an act of love only if it actually accomplishes something. It’s not enough to say that it inspires us to do something. (pp. 94–95)
To use Bell’s example of the courageous firefighters on 9/11, their sacrifice is a heroic act of love only because they were actually trying to rescue victims. If I race into a burning building to save a child’s life, people will praise me for my selfless love for others. But if the child is standing in a warm blanket beside me, it would be foolish for me to say, “Look how much I love you!” and run into the flames. Likewise, the cross is the greatest act of foolishness—not the greatest act of love—unless it actually rescues us. No rescue, no love. No love, no example. (p. 102)
[I]f we think that a cross which only inspires is nevertheless an act of love, then we must not think that we need much help. There is a logical connection from the Pelagianism discussed in chapter six to the example-only theory of the atonement examined here. (p. 105)